Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines the term “jam session” as: "an often impromptu performance by a group especially of jazz musicians that is characterized by improvisation." A jam session can simply be two or more musicians that get together to play music in an unrehearsed, relaxed atmosphere. You can jam to any type of music and have a lot of fun doing so.
Now that summer is over and winter is fast approaching, it’s a great time to think about getting some of your musical peers together and spend an evening jamming. Jam Sessions can be a major learning experience for a player, regardless of experience level. Since all musicians interpret music in their own special way, being a participant at jam sessions will allow you the opportunity to walk away with some new licks under your belt. Jams are also good ways to experiment with different musical genres. Another plus in participating at jam sessions…it’s a lot of fun!!
One of the coolest things about jam sessions is that you can have musicians from totally different musical genres as participants. If they are serious and somewhat open minded, they will find a way to play together. It’s their way of communicating and this is where the learning part comes in…you get to see and hear some licks and musical tricks that maybe you haven’t seen and heard before. You might be exposed to and become excited about a genre that you were not interested in previously. Maybe you’ll learn a jazz or blues lick that will sound so awesome in that Country Swing tune you have been playing. Maybe a Classically trained player plays something that catches the ear of a Metal guitar player and is soon used in a Rock song he is working on. It’s a great way to expand your musical knowledge…and did I mention that it’s a lot of fun, too??
Never been to a jam before? Well…you need to change that and get jamming! For you “first timers” here are some things to keep in mind in order to make the process productive…oh…and fun:
- Let’s say that you play the guitar and are going to jam with another guitarist. Play a chord progression through a couple of times, then one of you play rhythm while the other guitarist solos and then trade off. Pay attention to each other’s solos and you’ll pick up some new licks.
- If you have no clue where to start, try listening to some blues and get comfortable with it.
- If you are in a setting with several players, don't hesitate to join in and jam, even if you do not have as much experience as the other players. If and when you solo.
- Keep them somewhat simple at first until you get comfortable with the music. As the jam progresses, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and experiment.
- Jam sessions are supposed to be enjoyable (and if you didn’t know…they should be fun) so chill out and don’t get frustrated if you or anyone else makes mistakes. Otherwise there is no point. Take some breaks and have some water, soda, beer, etc. Maybe have some snacks…then go back and have a nice jam.
- If there is a large group of players, try not to have everyone playing at the same time…split the group up so that different combinations play together.
- Try and jam in a place where the distractions are few. Turn the TV off and get down!
Now, when you’re ready to jam, all you and your group of friends need to supply are your instruments, some talent and creativity and the willingness to learn and have some fun. Some understanding and forgiving neighbors will help as well. Let’s Jam!!